10 Things To Hate About Most TV Shows
'Breaking Bad' is in its final season. With each new episode, we are one step closer to seeing one of the greatest TV series of all time end. While it’s hard to pinpoint what the difference between good and great art is, it is much easier to understand what makes a work bad.
And when a show is bad, it’s very grating for the viewer. It makes us want to cringe, stab out our eyes Oedipus-style, and resort to watching reality TV all at the same time. That’s why these ten things are hated by the audience. TV shows need to stop doing them, or else we’re going to have a lot of blind men (and ones that have bedded their mothers) in the world.
I’m looking at you 'The Big Bang Theory', 'New Girl', and pretty much every modern sitcom out today sans 'Community', 'Arrested Development,' and a small group of others. Look, the boy-meets-girl plotline is so played out at this point. We don’t give a flying crap anymore how two people meet, what inevitable, trite, and ludicrous roadblocks they have until the last episode where they find relationship bliss. If I watch a pilot episode of a series and we already begin to guess what the finale will be, then that series is in trouble.
Audiences that watch the shows that are classified as dramas, but really don’t know the first thing about tension can attest to this. What do these shows do well? Make cliffhangers. What do they decide to do come the new season? Completely disregard any interesting twist made that could, you know, actually breathe new life into a stale series. 'True Blood' just did this to us. Remember how they ended Season 5 with Bill primed to be the series’ villain? How awesome and refreshing would that have been? People actually got excited about the possibilities of having Bill as the villain. That lasted about, oh, five seconds, which, as girls can attest to, is no fun whatsoever. In all fairness, True Blood hasn’t been good since Season 2. At this point, the show is just 1) cheesy dialogue 2) even more ludicrous dialogue 3) people shirtless 4) who will screw next. Another example is 'White Collar': the show teased us by setting Peter Burke to turn in to Neal Caffrey’s adversary, only to completely wipe that away at the beginning of the next season.
Is anyone else sick of the meta jokes? OK, so actors actually appear in other things. Who knew?! So why does each show feel the need to somehow make a joke or play on an actor’s previous role[s]? Do they honestly believe that audiences haven’t heard of IMDB at this point? Want a perfect example of why this is cheap? Think back to 'Friends' when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married. Brad Pitt guest stars on the show as--oh how hilarious--someone who hates Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel. Aren’t you just splitting your sides recalling it? Why isn’t this a good thing? Well think about if Brad Pitt were busy. Would that episode be remotely funny if they had cast John Lithgow or Steve Zahn, two actors who are inherently funny, to play that part? Nope.
If every other show has zombies—is that ever going to end? Like, seriously? PLEASE—do shows actually think that we want another story arc that includes them too? We don’t need to see a thousand incarnations about why eternity is so damning for vampires, and how that makes their love eternal. This isn’t teenage poetry.
You know, not everybody in the world is dumb. This is so true in comedy, where a lot of times writers think that a character has to be borderline stupid just to get laughs. Look at the Coens—they’ve been cracking people up for years with smart characters. An even better example, and actually a TV series, is Seinfeld. The greatest comedy in TV history didn’t feature one unintelligent character. While Kramer was kooky, he was by no means an idiot. Think about the banter between George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld--they used to joke about explorers, presidents, countries, dictators, etc. Give us a chance to get the smart humor—shows will be surprised with the results.
'Family Guy' is the biggest offender of this idea. The show is under the impression that if you talk about anything controversial, we will automatically find it funny. NOPE. Edgy jokes/plotlines need to have something behind them, usually intelligence or a different way of viewing the issue. If it doesn’t, it’s just a whiny teenager looking for attention. As an example, consider the difference between 'South Park' and 'Family Guy'. The former always has its jokes organically come up through the plot—the latter uses (I really should say abuses) the non-sequitur. Need further proof? Watch 'South Park’s episode The Cartoon Wars and the difference couldn’t be more apparent.
I know that most males are obsessed with their penises, but we seriously don’t need anything that calls itself a comedy to only focus on this one aspect of life. This rule may ring more true in terms of the Apatow school of movie-making, but it crosses over to TV a bit as well—'Entourage' did this to much, and I still don’t understand why, success (more on 'Entourage' in a bit). We couldn’t have found it funny. Please tell me we didn’t.
I’m not saying the audience shouldn’t enjoy watching your characters, but the show itself can’t love them to the point where it wants their world to be all sunshine and rainbows and lollipops. We want to see characters put through the ringer to see if the characters are strong enough to take it or not. Look at the god-awful finale of 'Entourage'—everybody gets everything in life! Hooray! Are you kidding me? Turtle was one of the dumbest businessmen of all time, yet he breaks bank because Vincent Chase had implicit faith in him? WE’RE NOT BUYING IT!
'The Wire' did this perfectly—if a character was going through a change, they didn’t just make that change null and void the next episode because it would be too hard and confusing to have a lead character not be related to a small group. Jimmy McNulty, throughout Season 4, became a beat officer. The backstory behind this move was that the actor, Dominic West, wanted to spend more time with his family. However, on the show, when he decides to rejoin the Major Crimes Unit at the end of the season, it feels authentic to us. Everything in the story had justified his decision—the hope of the new day dawning in police work, him needing to be a part of it, and to get a bit of justice for a recently-deceased person (I’m avoiding spoilers because that show is too good to ruin for anyone). How I Met Your Mother, on the other hand, butchered this. Remember when Robin moved away to do the news in Japan? How quickly did that last? Why create a cool plot twist only to erase it an episode or two later?
Back to 'New Girl', and 'The Mindy Project'—we can’t like a comedy that just has one funny character on the show (Nick, and Morgan, respectively). Shows need great ensembles. Ask any 'Arrested Development' fan who his favorite character is, and the answer will change weekly. Like a sports team, every character needs to contribute to the story.